Half A Year Recap & 2023 Year in Numbers

After our five weeks in seven countries in April and May, we had a little bit of a breather at home this summer before departing for projects in Peru and Romania. If you search flights from Lima to Bucharest, there’s a connection Paris. Reluctant, but not wanting to fly all the way back home for just two nights, we decided to spend four days in Paris. Now having been, I’m not sure why two art-lovers were so reluctant to go to the City of Love.

Wait a minute, Paris was a pitstop between Romania and Peru (there was also a side trip to the longest wave in the world that Jordan surfed in Peru…) so what about our work before and after Paris?!

LIFE Romania is reaching the next generation for Christ and equipping them to impact the local Church as disciples who make disciples. Their biggest avenue of evangelism and ministry is through summer camps for Romanian youth, but the ministry is much more than a camp outreach. Check out the video below to see and hear how they are spreading the Gospel in Romania by disciple making.

Another cool part about our trip to Romania is that our 13-year-old niece (who’s taller than Cassie!) was a participant on the mission trip! It was awesome to see her connecting with the Romanian youth and showing interest in our documentary storytelling work. We had one tourist day and it was fun touring castles (including Dracula’s!) in Transylvania.

In the dusty suburbs of Lima, Peru, La Roca Christian School was founded to meet the educational and spiritual needs of Peruvian children where no bilingual Christian school exists. The school serves as an important evangelistic outreach tool for the children’s families while also instilling Christian values and principles, training children to serve the Lord for all eternity.

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

Proverbs 22:6

After a jam-packed travel schedule for the first half of 2023, we didn’t have a single international filming trip for the remaining six months of the year, but that doesn’t mean we weren’t busy. We had a ton of editing to catch up on, and we continued to film several projects for the Foundation of FirstHealth in Southern Pines throughout the rest of the year, but we also found time for foster kids, family, and fun. Staying put may not sound like the most exciting thing to write a blog about, but there are a bunch of benefits. For one, it provides time at home where we can offer respite care for kids in the foster care system. We had the opportunity to foster a brother and sister two separate times during these months at home, and, well, we got pretty attached to them. The second time we had to say goodbye after two weeks with us was hard and we have been praying ever since about adopting and starting a family. Speaking of family, time at home also offers lots of chances to spend time with loved ones. We had a big celebration for Cassie’s dad’s 80th birthday, which was really special, and each of his children prepared speeches to honor their father.

Then there was Cassie’s annual family vacation, Thanksgiving, more birthdays, and Christmas with both sides of our family. And, of course, time not traveling also makes us a bit restless so we couldn’t resist the opportunity to cross off some personal bucket list items, including hiking the Art Loeb Trail in western NC (in 2 days), canoeing down the entire length of the Neuse River (in 5 days) and soaking in a hot tub in the Outer Banks during a meteor shower. We did some local camping with friends, introducing their two kids in kindergarten and first grade to the wonderful world of car camping with a massive borrowed 10-person tent and all you can eat s’mores. It was a great fall filled with hiking, canoeing and camping!

Cassie’s family vacation

Art Loeb Trail

This 30.1 mile trail is one of the longer and more difficult trails in our home state. We hiked the leaf-covered trail in two days, had amazing views and carried the required bear canister for all our food and scented items, but thankfully didn’t have any black bear encounters!

Paddling the Neuse River

We’ve been working on completing the 1,175-mile Mountains-to-Sea Trail that stretches across North Carolina from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks, and we’ve always been most excited to do the optional paddle route down the Neuse River, which avoids a lot of road walks since the MST is still in the process of getting land permissions to be moved off paved roads and fully onto trails. With our 121 miles of paddling in our canoe for five days and camping along the way, we’ve now completed 695.5 miles of the MST to date!

As you may or may not know, many of the international projects we embark on each year (including the two videos we shared in this update from Romania and Peru) are ministries supported by Providence Church in Raleigh, NC. Since 2019, we’ve traveled to 13 countries as well as documented church plants in two different states just through Providence’s missions work alone.

In November, Providence Church hosts their annual missions festival where they showcase the work God is doing around the world through their generous support. The church brings the missionaries they support around the world to Raleigh to share about the work being done in God’s name and be a blessing to the missionaries giving them tons of love and encouragement from their church body. We were finally able to attend the missions festival for the first time this past November, since we had no international projects, diagnoses or deaths in the family that have kept us away in the past, and we were so blessed to see how our videos get used to further God’s Kingdom. Typically, we deliver our videos to the ministry or organization and then move on to the next project, never getting the chance to see our videos unveiled or seeing how God uses our work to inspire others to support the organizations. It blessed us tremendously to see a church packed with 3,500 attendees interested in missions whose eyes and ears were focused on several of our videos which proceeded each missionary’s introduction and really paved the way for their conversation, showing the church members what life is like where they work and answering their questions about their mission work before they even began speaking. It was a powerful weekend, and it was also a happy reunion for us, reconnecting with missionaries we’d interviewed on 15 different trips and shared life with the 100+ mission trip attendees over the past couple of years. Below is a video we  compiled highlighting all the missions work we’ve documented worldwide for Providence.

We are already filming for projects in 2024, starting with a refugee ministry in Raleigh followed by a three-week trip to four countries in Southeast Asia and a project in Africa in March. It’s shaping up to be a busy year already and we have a lot to look forward to, but first let’s take a look back at 2023 with our annual Year in Numbers!

2023 YEAR IN NUMBERS

  • 171 Days away from home 

  • 121 miles paddled in a canoe on the Neuse River

  • 91 Videos produced

  • 45 Flights flown

  • 33 beds slept in

  • 14 Countries visited

  • 13 Nonprofits served

  • 10 books read

  • 6 art museums visited

  • 6 Nights in a tent

  • 5 Kids fostered

  • 4 publishers we sent our Appalachian Trail memoir to

  • 4 countries surfed in

  • 3 States visited

  • 3 delayed pieces of luggage

  • 2 car accidents survived
  • 1 complimentary upgrade to first class
  • 1 Independence Day celebrated (Israel)
  • 1 solo album released (sunstruck.bandcamp.com)
  • 0 REGRETS 

  • COUNTLESS BLESSINGS!

Thanks for being with us on this journey— we are so grateful for you!

7 Countries in 5 Weeks

What a great year this has been for us so far! We enjoyed the most perfect spring in Wilmington, with unseasonably cool days and not having to turn on our air conditioning until mid June. Despite a much busier than usual first half of the year, we’ve been able to catch up on our editing projects before each international trip, leaving with the weight of a to-do list off our shoulders and coming back from video travels with a clean slate. We are feeling very thankful that God has been working all these details out of our control and giving us a nice rhythm. 

Back in May, we returned from a FIVE-WEEK overseas film trip to document several seminaries for one overarching video. This was our longest stint of time abroad since having a home base, but because our time was split between seven different countries, it really didn’t feel long at all!

The start of our trip began with a day in Singapore before heading on to India. 

Next we filmed on three islands of Indonesia, even getting to spend a few days in Bali for Jordan to surf a world-class wave in Uluwatu (his second world-class wave this year, after getting to surf at Fiji’s famous Tavarua Island in February where he caught the biggest wave of his life!). 

From Southeast Asia, we continued on to the Middle East, stopping about halfway for a relaxing retreat on a private island in the Maldives where we snorkeled with colorful fish, sharks, stingrays and sea turtles in the crystal clear Indian Ocean. 

After we each got impressive tans, we headed to meet Cassie’s parents in Israel for an 8-day private tour of the Holy Land. Taking a private tour led by an Israeli Messianic Jew (“Jew for Christ”) allowed us to create a custom itinerary of the sights we wanted to see and also connect with Jordan’s cousin, a Franciscan monk in Nazareth, and friends from Wilmington who now live near the Sea of Galilee. 

To be 100% honest, Cassie wasn’t super excited about taking a trip to Israel. She prefers thrilling adventures rather than historical trips and since Jordan had already been to Israel 14 years ago, this trip was really intended for her parents. Little did she know how much this trip to Israel would impact her, and not just during our trip. Our time in Israel only continues to build in significance as we read our Bible daily, now having personal experiences with historical places from more than 2,000 years ago. The parts of the Old Testament where Cassie’s eyes used to glaze over now carry so much meaning as she can visualize these places as they are— real places where she walked. The same stories we’ve read over and over in the Bible have a new richness after walking in the footsteps of the Israelites 2,000 years ago, understanding the Hebrew context, and how that relates to us today.